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Overall Rating
4.14

Awesome: 41.38%
Worth A Look46.55%
Average: 3.45%
Pretty Bad: 1.72%
Total Crap: 6.9%

7 reviews, 74 user ratings


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About a Boy
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Good vehicle for Hugh Grant."
4 stars

Nick Hornby's novel "About a Boy" is really about two boys: Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a long-suffering and ridiculed 12-year-old weathering the instabilities of his depressive divorced mom Fiona (Toni Collette), and Will (Hugh Grant), a well-to-do 38-year-old loafer who grudgingly takes Marcus under his wing.

Living comfortably off the royalties of a novelty Christmas song ("Santa's Super Sleigh," perhaps Hornby's nod to Melvin and Howard) written by his dad, Will isn't quite proud of the fact that he does "nothing" (his stock answer when asked what he does), though he is proud that he's closing in on 40 without having gotten dragged into anything messy or emotional -- anything meaningful, in other words.

Hornby specializes in overgrown boys surrounding themselves with cocoons of comforting, life-blocking stuff. In High Fidelity, adapted into a John Cusack vehicle in 2000, it was records and music trivia; here it's the empty, flashy detritus of a solitary rich man's flat. Both stories are also inextricably linked to music; the novel unfolds during 1993 and 1994, when Kurt Cobain nearly killed himself and then succeeded, and is named after the Nirvana song "About a Girl." (Hornby, who occasionally writes music reviews for The New Yorker, obviously has pop on the brain.) And both stories are about how the overgrown boys are forced to mature.

Will stumbles into the position of Marcus's adult friend (certainly Will considers himself in no way a father or even big brother) during a particularly dodgy period when he's attending a single-parent support group, pretending to have a never-seen son named Ned, in order to meet and date single mothers. While dating Suzie (Victoria Smurfit), a friend of Fiona's, Will meets Marcus on a support-group picnic. Before long, Will is drawn quite against his will ("against my better judgment," he might put it) into the problems of the miserable Marcus and his equally despondent mum. Who needs the hassle? Surely Will doesn't. Yet Marcus does fill a need Will hadn't even known was there -- he gives Will a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning other than himself. Slowly, and bitching all the way, Will begins to help Marcus, and realizes that Marcus is the one helping him.

If the role of Will wasn't written for Hugh Grant, it may as well have been. For perhaps the first time, Grant is allowed to headline a movie in which he isn't a variation on the amiably stammering Englishman he played in Four Weddings and a Funeral. He dined out on that for years, even though he'd played different kinds of parts before that, and his supporting role as a womanizing cad in 2001's Bridget Jones's Diary may have been a dry run for Will, a decent enough fellow whom one character accurately describes as "blank." Well, it's not that he's blank, really -- he knows there's something missing, he's just too comfortable on the couch to go out in the chaos of life and relationships to look for it. Grant plays him as a man in transition, with potential that could point to triumph or disaster, and manages to paint shades of both hope and fear into the performance.

Marcus (a fine, uncutesy job by newcomer Hoult) needs a father figure, or at least, as he puts it, "back-up." Fiona loves him as much as she's able, but her unpredictable bouts with depression scare him, particularly when one of them almost results in her going the way of Kurt Cobain. Sadly, the script -- by directors Chris and Paul Weitz of American Pie, along with Peter Hedges of What's Eating Gilbert Grape -- drops all the book's Nirvana/Cobain references, perhaps because the filmmakers were denied the rights to use Nirvana's music or Cobain's image. Happily, the movie, following Hornby's lead, doesn't do anything so clichéd as having Will and Fiona fall in love. Instead, Will falls for Rachel (Rachel Weisz), a children's book illustrator who assumes that Marcus is Will's son, an assumption Will does little to dissuade.

I could've done without the "Killing Me Softly" finale (though it's amusing to watch Hugh Grant rocking out to Roberta Flack on guitar), and the movie's loss of the Kurt Cobain backdrop also reduces one of the novel's more interesting characters -- Ellie (Nat Gastiain Tena), a punkish older girl who takes a liking to Marcus. In the book, it's Nirvana that unites them; here nothing much seems to bind them together, and she's only in a handful of scenes.

"About a Boy" is more successful as a Hugh Grant vehicle than as a Nick Hornby adaptation. It should reanimate Grant's career as a leading man, though, and it establishes the Weitz brothers as filmmakers who can do more than teen lust and pastry intimacy.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5912&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/25/06 13:14:01
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User Comments

3/16/12 Amanda Oh ReallyBickcock, you have better lock playing with yourself. 4 stars
7/29/10 ReallyBickcock I have a really huge dick and i wanna fuck the moms in this movie 5 stars
7/01/10 ddfdfgh this film was very boring 3 stars
5/02/10 PAUL SHORTT AMUSING, BRIGHT AND UNPREDICTABLE 4 stars
7/27/08 Samantha Pruitt hugh grant was great, very sweet movie! 4 stars
5/04/08 Amiida Hilarious,but still loyal to the book,just fantastic 5 stars
4/07/08 beau bloody hilarious. Hugh grant and toni collette are gold! the kid is now in tv show 'Skins' 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies Hugh Grant can do no wrong. 4 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i love this movie, it was so sweet, and Hugh Grant is as charming as usual! 4 stars
5/26/07 T. Monaco Great Film 5 stars
11/01/06 Pinkline Jones Fine film. Grant excellent 1 stars
10/04/06 Baldeadly Was just as good as the book. Brill! Really funny and different. Hugh Grant is Really class 5 stars
5/06/06 Ashley Hinz I didn't like this film overly much, but I like the actors. 4 stars
4/10/06 Thomas Semesky A charming movie that doesn't go over the edge. 4 stars
3/09/06 Dk A cute and funny little film 4 stars
2/20/06 Tanya very entertaining 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Strong comedy. Grant at his best. Love the story. 4 stars
11/09/05 Ole Man Bourbon Some sappiness, but some hilarious scenes. Hugh Grant makes a great asshole. 4 stars
9/25/05 D Buckley Better than the book 5 stars
3/21/05 Richard Pryor the best since 4 weddings and a funerla 5 stars
2/18/05 noob boob not crap, not great, just average 3 stars
1/17/05 DM Very, very funny 5 stars
1/04/05 HL Very Enjoyable Movie - Hugh Grant is Perfect... 4 stars
7/08/04 wattsski Absolutely brillaint and hillarious writing. I've seen it 28 times, it never gets old. 5 stars
5/03/04 Jan In my opinion the book is more interesting than the film. 3 stars
2/18/04 Pinkline Jones Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant 5 stars
2/12/04 mongo this is real shit! 1 stars
12/02/03 smarlie lose depth 2 stars
11/09/03 I Would Perfectly casted, excellent script and overall easy to identify with. I loved it. 4 stars
9/12/03 Goofy Maxwell If nothing else you learn that single parent dinner dates are BYOB (bring your own boy). 4 stars
4/16/03 JL Quite good, and funny. 5 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon The soup kitchen scene was a pants-pisser. 4 stars
3/31/03 Vitality1 this movie was MUCH better than American Pie & Down to Earth! they don't compare!!! 5 stars
3/02/03 karen surprisingly good! is hugh going to start making decent movies now? 4 stars
2/24/03 Mitsaso Funny and emotional 5 stars
2/12/03 brentley Probably the only Hugh Grant movie I actually enjoyed.... 4 stars
2/05/03 123 fresh and unique 5 stars
2/04/03 Monday Morning Oh please...this was right out of the sugar-sucking '60s. 2 stars
2/03/03 seldom scene excellent humor, easiest british film to comprehend 5 stars
1/28/03 Pinkline Jones No substance and no good looking CHICKS! 1 stars
1/24/03 Dom Great Film 5 stars
1/06/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng I love this movie! If you liked "American Pie" and "Down To Earth" you'll love it too! 5 stars
9/11/02 dora brilliant,beautiful,fantastic,cool,funny,the best film i`ve seen this year 5 stars
9/10/02 John McNew Good book, GREAT movie...mostly, that is 4 stars
9/05/02 Rob real human interest story it's all about men ladies learn something !!!! 4 stars
8/28/02 viking Hugh Grant's best performance in years 5 stars
8/26/02 hum entertaining 4 stars
8/02/02 Sylvie Alice Borden Enjoyable escapist comedy that critics want to fancy to be a morality play. 4 stars
8/01/02 Matthew Smith don't expect too many laughs, it's more dramatic and at times painful 4 stars
7/28/02 Adam Voorhees A real let down, not bad but not good enough by half 3 stars
7/26/02 Turtle Hilarious and charming. Truly a great movie. 5 stars
7/11/02 Kristen Great 5 stars
6/29/02 Christopher Loved it; a wonderful movie 5 stars
6/13/02 Heather Intelligent, well-crafted, insightful movie 5 stars
6/11/02 john excellent show ... tender, well acted and touching 4 stars
6/09/02 katsat Wonderful--touching, funny, believable, deep--the year's best mainstream movie so far 5 stars
6/05/02 natasha utterly charming; excellent performances and some really good laughs 5 stars
6/05/02 Mortis Intelligent Adult humor and emotion -obliviously not for everyone 4 stars
6/03/02 cleansparks hilarious, terrific performances 5 stars
6/01/02 Blubberbot Super boring 1 stars
5/31/02 Phil M. Aficionado Delightfully funny and yet thoughtful, with some excellent performances and characters 5 stars
5/31/02 Flick Chick they call this a chick flick? 1 stars
5/29/02 ajay what's up with that kid's eyebrows? I thought it was really funny 4 stars
5/28/02 Bunny 1 Kenobi Respectable acting, but I just hate movies about sick people 1 stars
5/26/02 Nicole Pretty predictable, but decent nonetheless. Good humor. 4 stars
5/25/02 bk grant is wonderful as the boy who finally grows up 4 stars
5/25/02 frank hilarious. touching without over-doing it 5 stars
5/24/02 Kristen Hugh Grant looked good! (sizzle sizzle) 5 stars
5/22/02 Gibbo Fantastic - loyal to the book. 5 stars
5/22/02 King Kong Insipid dialogue. Like diarrhea, I kept wondering when it would end. 1 stars
5/21/02 Greyjack I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Great acting all 'round, too. 5 stars
5/19/02 Jon Artus Hugh Grant...? Without Floppy Hair...? I like it! 4 stars
5/19/02 Oracle1 If you've seen Big, Big Daddy, The Kid, then you've seen most of this film. 1 stars
5/14/02 Doc Holiday great movie, good humour bit depressing though...see it anyway 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-May-2002 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  01-Aug-2002




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